Tuesday, July 12, 2011
#12 A Day at Ndingi
Finally I have had a chance to spend some time at Archbishop Ndingi Secondary School for Boys, lovingly known as Ndingi. A new principal has come to lead the students and teachers to greater glory—or even some glory. Ndingi has had some down times, but I think with new leadership it will come up. In the national exam last November, the girls of SFG spanked the boys, but the boys are not giving up. The 2 schools are building a friendly rivalry, which should be good for both. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take even one picture—pole sana (pronounced poll a sana—means very sorry) I will be there again on Saturday and will do a better job of being a reporter and recorder, as well as doing whatever I’m there for.
Three of the 4 math teachers are still there, good guys all. Here’s a picture I took last year
The second pic is a typical Ndingi classroom, not unlike most high schools in Kenya. It shows the wear of more than 20 years, the last 10 of which it has been all-boys. The school needs sprucing up and we talked about ways that might happen. I suggested that there are people with money here in Naivasha—a tiny minority of the population, to be sure, but they could help.
Kenyans are a new society in some respects. They achieved independence from Britain only in 1963, not even 50 years ago. They haven’t had time to develop traditions in the modern world they are working to join. One big tradition in the US is that of giving back to schools. This kind of gratitude will come up here in time, but only recently has an “old boys” group been formed at Ndingi. Some of the parents are also able to give. We talked about a foundation and how to encourage parents and townsfolk to support it.
One big need is new chairs and desks. The chair seats are metal or wood and very hard on the backside. I have sat in sufficiently many to know! The desks are the traditional style that we have also in SFG. They are metal frames, and are so beat up and bent there are hardly enough for everyone. I’d love to see them all tossed away and begin with brand new, but that’s too big of an investment for KH.
I spent time talking with the new principal, Alfred Maragia, a pleasant young man who is eager to bring up the scores. I asked him about a plan to do that and noted some good ideas, as well as just positive energy towards the staff and the students. I had been told that there was some grumbling at Ndingi about SFG having so much and they had so little. I asked whether there was some small project I could sponsor. He spoke of the new staff room, which they have been using for almost 1 year, but it remains unpainted. He called Ben, the accountant, for an estimate on the cost and it wasn’t all that much. Since Ben is taking me to Nairobi on other business tomorrow, we will pick the paint at the same time.
I requested to speak to the teachers and asked the same thing, was there something that would make their lives easier that wasn’t too expensive. At first there was no response, but I knew they’d need time to think of such a thing. They don’t get offers like that too often. Eventually Boniface (in the black suit in pic above) said, “Could we have a printer in the deputy’s office (adjacent to the staff room) so we don’t have to go to the school secretary at exam time to print our exam papers? It gets very jammed up in there and we can do the printing ourselves.” I thought about how many printers there are at Menlo Atherton, 20? 30? Many in the staff room and also in many offices. This school of about 200 boys and at least 10 staff have one very slow and ancient printer. ACH! Everywhere I turn I am confronted with unbelievable inequities. Yes, they will get their printer and their staff room painted. Although there are many needs for the students, I can’t take them on, but making the staff feel valued and appreciated can make a huge difference in the achievement of the students. When I left last year I bought an electric hot water cooker for each staff. Particularly at St Francis they have thanked me so much and I see it in use all the time—b/c they arrive early when it’s very cold at this time of year. In fact I had the idea from being there last year and wishing I had some hot water to drink.
Before I left Alfred asked me about 5 boys who are sponsored by Mary Fry of Pasadena, where she and her husband have a traditional British Tea Shoppe, Rose Tree Cottage www.rosetreecottage.com through their foundation, Bloom Where Planted (BWP). It seems that these boys, all in form 2, would not be able to go on the annual Kisumu trip because the $28 fee had not been paid. I know Mary well and know she would not hesitate to pay it—she just didn’t know. Alfred had no way to contact her and is so new in his job, he might have hesitated to ask her. I was so glad we talked about it. I emailed Mary, who said, “Absolutely, the boys should go.” She actually arrives here in a week and will reimburse the school. Now Mary and Alfred have been connected by email and he understands that she will want to know about any such problems.
Several years ago Mary and I somehow found each other. When I learned what she was doing I offered to send the school fees so she wouldn’t have to pay the cost of the wire transfer. It’s a nice convenience for her and makes no difference for us, since the money she sends goes to our schools anyway. She and I finally met last summer when she invited Fr Kiriti and me for dinner at a pretty fancy hotel where she stays in order to be near the school. She’s a warm, vigorous British woman with a heart so big for the children here. We were immediate friends.
In addition to running the tea shoppe, Mary and her husband organize safaris to Kenya. As is the case with many such companies, they usually stop at a school (having previously suggested their clients to bring school and art supplies). Some time ago they stopped at Longenott Elementary School, located in a very poor area of Naivasha, near some flower farms. She fell in love with the students and the school, came home to establish BWP. They have refurbished the school, helped them bring up the student performance and now support 5 girls and 6 boys children at SFG and Ndingi, plus a few others who didn’t have the marks for our school.